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'Chronicles of Barsetshire' location
1953 map by Maurice Weightman published as endpapers for Thirkell's Jutland Cottage
Created byAnthony Trollope
TypeFictional county
Notable locationsBarchester, Silverbridge, Hogglestock
Notable charactersMr Septimus Harding, Bishop and Mrs Proudie, Dr Thomas Thorne, Archdeacon Theophilus Grantly

Barsetshire is a fictional English county created by Anthony Trollope in the series of novels known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire. The county town and cathedral city is Barchester. Other towns in the novels include Silverbridge, Hogglestock and Greshamsbury.


According to E. A. Freeman, Trollope conceded to him that Barset was in origin Somerset, although Barchester itself was primarily Winchester.[1] Other West Country counties like Dorset also contributed, and Gatherum Castle for example was imported from elsewhere, but such important elements as Plumstead Episcopi were drawn directly from Somerset life, in this case Huish Episcopi.[2] In sum, Barset was (in Trollope's own words) "a little bit of England which I have myself created".[3]

Political structure[edit]

In Doctor Thorne Trollope describes how the county, formerly represented by a single parliamentary constituency, was split into two constituencies, the more rural East Barsetshire, which includes Barchester, and the more commercial West Barsetshire, by the Reform Act 1832.[4] The borough of Silverbridge, according to the Palliser novels, also elects a Member of Parliament.

Later fictional usage[edit]

The novel Barchester Pilgrimage (1935), and some of the episodes in Let Dons Delight (1939), both by Ronald Knox, refer to Barsetshire and its inhabitants.

Barsetshire was also used as the setting for a series of 29 novels by Angela Thirkell, written from 1930 to 1961. Thirkell's stories blend social satire with romance. Her 1946 novel, Private Enterprise, explored discontent with the bureaucracy of the Attlee government – something echoed by Orville Prescott in his poem-review beginning "In Barchester all is not well".[5]

Barsetshire is also used in some of the Pullein-Thompson sisters books, usually referring to rival teams or as a nearby county.

Barchester and Barset were used as names for the fictional county in which St Trinians School was supposedly located in the original films.

The county is also mentioned in Michael Innes's Appleby and Honeybath where it is suggested that "the shifting of county boundaries has pretty well done away with Barsetshire" (p 27).


Barchester is used as a railway station and location for some of the 1942 Ealing Studios film The Black Sheep of Whitehall.

Barchester Cathedral was used as the setting for the ghost story The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral by M. R. James in his 1911 collection More Ghost Stories. It is also the setting for Charlie Lovett's 2017 literary mystery The Lost Book of the Grail; or, A Visitor's Guide to Barchester Cathedral.

William Golding refers to Barchester and its cathedral in passing in his 1967 novel The Pyramid, set in the small fictional market town of Stilbourne.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ M. Sadleir, Trollope (London 1945) p. 159
  2. ^ M. Sadleir, Trollope (London 1945) p. 159-164
  3. ^ M. Sadleir, Trollope (London 1945) p. 417
  4. ^ A. Trollope, DrThorne (London 1947) p. 2
  5. ^ J. Bew, Citizen Clemm (London 2016) p. 449-51

External links[edit]